The United States of America v. John Wiley Price, et al.: Week Five Recap
John Wiley Price (right) sits in Judge Barbara Lynn's federal courtroom.
This week was perhaps the most eventful of John Wiley Price's federal corruption trial. It was also the shortest, featuring just one full day of testimony thanks to a scheduled break to allow jurors to take off for personal business. But before they got their break, jurors heard damaging testimony from ex-Dallas County Judge Jim Foster about Price's roll in scuttling the inland port and heard the defense scramble to defuse last week's testimony from Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell.
Here's a look at what happened and a look ahead as the trial steams into April.
Cantrell returns. — After testifying last week that he would've turned Price in to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office had he known that Price was getting cash from Price's political consultant, Kathy Nealy, in exchange for inside information and influencing county votes, Cantrell returned Monday to finish his time on the witness stand. First, he authenticated emails between Price and Nealy that prosecutors said contained inside information that shouldn't have gone to Nealy's clients. Then Cantrell confirmed for the jury that when he retires from the commissioner's court, he won't have received some $900,000 in bribes, as Price is alleged to have done nor will he be driving a fancy car like the BMW Nealy is alleged to have bought for Price.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Chris Knox, Cantrell reiterated something that's been said by multiple witnesses so far during the trial, telling the jury that Price is the most "well-read" elected official that Cantrell has ever known.
“No question in your mind about his allegiance to his constituents in Dallas County?” Knox asked Cantrell, according to reporters in the courtroom.
"That's correct," Cantrell replied.
Dallas County Judge Jim Foster dings Price. — As Jim Schutze reported for the Observer on Tuesday, Foster, after being led there by Price's own defense attorney, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, painted a damning picture of the alleged influence Price peddled to Ross Perot Jr.'s company, Hillwood, as Hillwood tried to slow down the Inland Port project in southern Dallas County. Price, according to Foster, leaned on Perot-supported former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert to call Foster to ask that the judge delay a key vote on the project. [content-1]
Price, Leppert and The Dallas Morning News' editorial page all claimed that the delay was a good thing, as it allowed more planning for the proposed port. “Developers were refusing to come to the area because of the uncertainty of the master plan study. When this announcement [of the need for a new master plan] came out, the developers withdrew their offers,” Foster said Monday.
Baccus-Lobel, who seemed surprised by Foster's response, asked Foster to name a developer put off by the delay.
"Whirlpool," Foster replied, before Baccus-Lobel cut him off.
The finish line comes into view. — Before dismissing jurors for the week Tuesday morning, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn that they expect to call three more witness before resting their case. The defense could begin presenting its case as early as Monday afternoon next week. Price's defense will center on the claim that the payments made by Nealy to him were repayments for old loans, rather than bribes. Price, the defense has argued, was just a nice guy helping Nealy, a woman in need, rather than a crooked politician.